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What to Do for Dogs Who Ate Foreign Objects

Ever place a piece of food down only to turn around and find it missing? You wonder if you’ve lost your mind, but then you see your dog eying you guiltily. Oh, dogs. Anything that tastes remotely good can be at risk for disappearing down their gullet. 

Sometimes, non-food items are at risk of disappearing. Toys, socks, trash —  basically anything lying around your house can be a possible snack in your dog’s eyes. Rescue dogs that were starving at some point in their life can also develop ‘the gobbles’, where they will overeat if given the opportunity and swallow things they shouldn’t. Let’s take a look at what to do when your dog swallows a foreign object. 

Determine What Foreign Object Your Dog Ate 

Toxic or Poisonous Substances

Finding out exactly what foreign object your dog ate is imperative in deciding whether you need to seek veterinarian help or not. For toxic substances, like antifreeze, large amounts of chocolate for your dog’s size, or foods containing xylitol, you should get professional help as soon as possible. For more advice on what to do when poisons have been ingested, call the ASPCA poison control at 888-426-4435 for guidance. 

Small Objects

Let’s say you came home to your nearly-full garbage bag torn apart and its contents are spread all over the place. You’re not exactly sure what trash items may have been gobbled up by your pup. Some non-food items that are small enough will be able to pass through your pet’s digestive system unimpeded. Hopefully, your dog has torn the item, like a food wrapper, into small enough pieces that it will come out the other end without issues. 

Large Objects

So, your dog ate a large foreign object, like a sock or a stuffed animal. Larger objects can get stuck anywhere in the digestive system from the esophagus to the intestines, to the stomach. Large objects will likely need veterinary assistance, and possibly surgery, to be removed. They may induce vomiting to expel the foreign object your dog ate

Signs a Dog Ate a Foreign Object

  • Respiratory and breathing problems
  • Choking
  • Parts of the foreign object are still hanging out of their mouth
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blood in stool
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

Steps You Should Take

  • If your dog is having breathing problems or choking, check for anything lodged in the mouth or throat. If you can remove it without injury to yourself, do so. If not, go to the vet.
  • If you can see pieces of string or cordage hanging out of their mouth, with the main portion still down their throat, don’t pull on it. You could cut or cause injury to the esophagus. Seek a vet.
  • When your dog loses consciousness, the object is likely blocking the airway for breathing. Perform the Heimlich maneuver for dogs immediately:
    • Place your hand below the dog’s rib cage while they are laying down (or standing up for large dogs). Use your other hand for support on their back. Make a fist with your hand on the stomach area and firmly push up and inward towards the ribcage. Check the mouth for dislodged objects.
  • If you think the objects were small and should pass, keep an eye on their stool. Check for blood, which could indicate tears from sharp objects, constipation that lasts more than a day or two, and chronic diarrhea. Should you see any of these signs, call your vet right away.

Remember, younger dogs will try to eat almost anything. Be conscientious about what you leave lying around the house. If they get into too much trouble while you aren’t home, consider crate training for their safety. If your dog ate a foreign object and you are unsure of what to do, give your vet a call. They will give you advice on whether to bring them in for an emergency visit or not.

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